Impact of Robust Customer Engagement
Austin Whitman directs regulatory affairs at FirstFuel Software. Over his seventeen-year career he has consulted on energy and resource issues to over two dozen utilities, government agencies, and non-profits. In addition, he has provided energy sector analysis and advice to some of the world’s largest institutional investors.
Global consumers have entered an era of unprecedented customer options and personalization.
Online retailers offer bespoke clothing. Advertisers tailor their messages to search results, demographics, and location. We also have just-in-time production of consumer goods meeting exact specifications.
Businesses are using information technology to fuel an explosion of options that fit nearly infinite variations in individual demand. Consumer needs are much in focus, and retailers chase them doggedly. Today we could define this as the Age of the Individual Consumer.
Electric and gas utilities are hardly immune to these market trends. During earlier days of the clean energy revolution, “wait and see” was an acceptable approach. Regulatory reforms and utility-of-the-future initiatives were voluntary and self-directed.
States that adopted aggressive renewable portfolio standards and energy efficiency policies took quiet comfort in modest adoption rates, which offered a margin of safety. As long as customers adopted distributed energy resources at a manageable rate, regulators could stay well in control of their skis.
But whereas once it took a pile of incentives, significant education, and an early adopter mindset before a customer would sign up for something other than basic service from its utility, now customers are clamoring for more.